OBERMEYER KENAI SHELL
TEST SERIES BY MIKE PEARL
INITIAL REPORT - October 13, 2011
FIELD REPORT - January 12, 2012
LONG TERM REPORT - March 11, 2012
Woodstock, Vermont, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
155 lb (70.30 kg)
My backpacking experience began nine years ago, after years of car camping. Most trips are for two or three days, some lasting a week. I hike with a group of two to four, with plans for a multi-day solo hike this summer. I pack a tent or tarp depending on availability of trail shelters. An average day is 12 miles (19 km). While aware of weight, it is not my primary concern. I strive for enjoyable outings with functional, reliable gear. I usually travel in woodland mountain terrain. I am a three-season camper, but enjoy hiking all year.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Year of Manufacture: 2011 Made in China
Manufacturer's Website: www.Obermeyer.com
Listed Weight: Not Listed
Measured Weight: 1 lb 15 oz (886 g)
Size Tested: Medium
Sizes Available: Small, Medium, Large, X-Large
Color Tested: Black
Colors Available: Black
Fabric/Coating: Cocona- 100% Polyester
Lining: Stretch Mesh - 100% brushed polyester
Features - Listed on Company website:
CZV - Control Zone Ventilation, 2-way ventilation zippers
Adjustable cuff tabs
Adjustable interior hem drawcord
Fleece chin protector
Full-motion, articulated sleeve construction
Inside mesh/stretch binding goggle pocket
Inside scratch-free goggle storage pocket with zipper and absorbent cloth
Integrated hood with peripheral and vertical drawcord adjustment
Internal zipper windguard
Shaped seams for fit
Ski pass D-ring
Tricot-lined hand pockets
Zipper sleeve pocket
The Kenai Shell arrived in good condition with four informational tags attached. The Kenai looks like a well made shell. All materials from zippers to stitching are of good quality and put together nicely. The exterior fabric has subtle vertical striations creating a brushed finish look. All zippers have good pull tabs. This is something I always check for in cold weather gear. My very first thought was, it's really dark and quickly followed by there's lots of zippers. Both thoughts lessened as I looked closer.
Starting at the top, the hood can be adjusted in three directions. The lateral fit adjustment is located on the back of the hood and uses a barrel lock. The posterior, vertical adjustment is also on the back using a loop and hook tab that fastens over the barrel lock. The anterior, vertical adjustment is on the front of the hood using a barrel lock on each side. The Obermeyer logo is present on the top, front rim of the hood. The hood is not removable or stowable. This is a small let down for when the hood will not be worn. I dislike when there is material that can flop around or get snagged while on the move.
On the left sleeve just below shoulder level is a pocket with the Obermeyer name and logo. The pocket is about 6.5 x 5 in (16.5 x 12.5 cm) and secured by a zipper. It looks like the perfect size for a resort trail map. Under both sleeves are 14 in (35.5 cm) two way ventilation zippers. At the bottom of both sleeves are hook and loop tabs for cuff adjustment. The RECCO logo is present on the cuff of the right sleeve.
On the front are two large 15.5 x 8.5 in (39 x 20 cm) pockets both lined with Tricot. The 11 in (28 cm) zippers on the pockets makes getting things in and out simple. Between the large opening and Tricot lining a winter glove is easily held with room left for my hands. Inside the left pocket is a D-ring. The right pocket has a button snap leash. Running parallel to the left chest pocket and under the left sleeve the company name is printed.
The interior reveals a left chest pocket with a zipper closure. Inside the pocket is a scratch-free, absorbent goggle cloth attached to an elastic cord by a snap button. The pocket is about 8 x 5 in (20 x 12.5 cm) and is lined with Lycra. On the right side is a mesh pocket measuring 9 x 8 in (23 x 20 cm) with a small hook and loop closure. At the bottom is a hem cord adjustment with two barrel locks, one on each side of the jacket. On the bottom left corner is a patch explaining the RECCO Advanced Rescue Technology. This is basically a reflector that bounces back a signal to rescuers using a RECCO detector. As much as I searched the Kenai I cannot find anything indicating the reflector location.
After looking over the Kenai my thoughts are it is well designed and packed with useful features.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The Kenai is not accompanied by any instructions other than the care instructions tag sewn inside the shell.
-machine wash cold, use mild detergent, gentle cycle
-use only non chlorine bleach when needed
-line dry only
-do not iron
-do not dry clean
Using the Kenai is straight forward and intuitive. It's a jacket, used to keep warm and dry. But the Cocona fabric used in the Kenai to make it waterproof and breathable is anything but simple. In fact it is quite remarkable.
Cocona is a fabric derived from coconut shells using a patented process and trademarked by Traptek. Cocona uses billions of micro porous particles to increases surface area by 800% which helps to spread moisture assisting evaporation. The Cocona particles also absorb heat energy produced by the body to speed evaporation in waterproof breathable fabrics. In addition the tiny Cocona particles provide UV protection, odor resistant and evaporative cooling in a 100% polyester fabric. Since this is part of the fabric and not applied to the surface it does not wear out or wash off. Just the opposite it is reactivated by washing and drying.
I did note two discrepancies on the informational hang tag. A zip-off powder skirt and inner cuffs with thumb holes are listed. These two features are not present on the Kenai shell I received.
TRYING IT OUT
After removing the attached tags I put on the Kenai. While adjusting the cuffs I notice the openings look ample enough to accommodate a large glove or mitten. Next I zip the shell closed, the zipper seems to seal itself together. When the zipper is closed the teeth are completely concealed. The Kenai fits loose, while wearing a T-shirt, but very comfortably without restricting any range of motion. There is a swooshing sound when the sleeves rub.
I then put on the hood. It is very large which should easily fit my snowboard helmet. Adjusting the drawcord is easy and makes the hood fit better. Next I open and close all the zippers. They all work but do not slide very easy, hope this is just a matter of breaking-in. The hem drawcord is easy to reach and adjust. All pockets are well positioned and within reach. The Kenai gives me a sense of being enveloped but not being weighed down.
The Kenai combines innovative materials, good design and solid construction to make a quality shell. I find the fit and feel of the Kenai appealing. I am imagining various uses for the many pockets. Most of all I am eager to see how the Kenai performs in the elements.
FOLLOW UP ON PRODUCT INFORMATION
After posting my Initial Report a friendly fellow Gear Tester informed me of the Recco reflectors location. The 7 x 1.5 x 1 cm (2.75 x 0.5 x 0.4 in) reflector is sewn into the right sleeve. It is at mid-bicep level and feels like a stick of bubble gum. Even after learning of its location I never notice it while wearing the Kenai.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Overnight on the highest peak in Vermont, Mt. Mansfield elevation 4395 ft (1340 m). Camped at Taft Lodge at 3600 ft (1097 m).
Weather encountered on Day 1 - Temperature a high of 44 F (7 C) and low of 31 F (-1 C), with a 0.5 in (1.25 cm) of sporadic rain and non-stop fog with light winds turning into 25 mph (40 kph) gust with snowfall at and above treeline.
Day 2 - Temperature a high of 46 F (8 C) and low of 31 F (-1 C), clouds breaking early and skies turning partly sunny with light breeze.
Terrain traveled varied with change in elevation. The trail began in dense hardwood forest with many muddy and root strewn sections. As the trail climbs many areas of large, bare rock slabs are covered, some vertically. Once at treeline following the trail involves scrambling over large rocks and boulders. Nearing the summit the trail crosses the largest of three alpine tundras in Vermont at about 200 acres (81 ha). Here the trail is bare rock, many having very limited traction or wood puncheons.
Two separate day hikes on the Appalachian Trail, one in Vermont and one in New Hampshire.
Day 1-temperature of 45 F (7 C) and mostly sunny with light winds. 5 mi (8 km) of trail hiked with an elevation of 500 - 1300 ft (150 - 400 km). A thick layer of leaves covered the trail changing to pine needles after a steep rocky climb. This was a shorter hike due to my pack load, my 24 lbs (11 kg) three year old daughter.
Day 2-started early with a temperature of 26 F (-3 C) and rose to 40 F (4 C) by the end of the day. There was abundant sun with light winds. In the shade the ground remained frozen. 12 mi (19 km) of trail with 900 - 1700 ft (270 - 500 m) of elevation through mixed hardwood forest.
Day hike on The Pogue trails, Woodstock, Vermont. It was sunny but windy, the temperature was 28 to 38 F (-2 to 3 C).
The trails here become a cross country ski area in winter. This was a little recon as I am eagerly awaiting the overdue snow. Terrain gently rolls up and down as it winds the way up the hills surrounding the pond. 10 mi (16 km) over elevations of 1000 - 1600 ft (300 - 480 m) through hard and soft wood forest.
Day at Burnt Mountain Trails at Boston Lot Lake, New Hampshire
Terrain is rough, rocky and rooted through mostly pine forest. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (180 m) to 1000 ft (300 m). The temperature was 18 F (-7 C), skies were clear with brisk winds.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Kenai has served me well during field testing. I have been comfortable wearing it in temperatures ranging from 46 to 26 F (8 to -3 C). At the high end of this range I wore a synthetic T-shirt under the Kenai with the under arm vents completely open. At the low end of this range I wore a long sleeve 18.5 Micron Merino wool, 150 g/m2 shirt and synthetic T-shirt with vents closed. I felt chilly while starting out at the lower temperature but warmed while hiking. At 18 F (-7 C) I needed the addition of a synthetic insulating jacket to feel warm. The Kenai accommodates the additional layer while remaining comfortable.
The Kenai has been excellent in the rain, wind and snow or any combination of the three. The wind does not penetrate it and water runs right off. The only time I was wet inside the jacket was when I forgot to put the hood up. This has dispelled my initial concern of the hood being cumbersome when not worn. I have not felt or heard it flopping once under any conditions. When putting the hood up it went on completely and easily with one hand even when while wearing a hat.
When shouldering my pack I was surprised how effortlessly it slid onto the Kenai. The smooth finish of the fabric allowed my pack to fall into place without any material bunching up. This brings me back to the hood though. When shouldering my pack with the hood down it ended up under the pack. I had to pull the hood out from under to pack to make it comfortable.
The zippers have steadily become more fluid during the field test period. The pull on the main zipper makes opening and closing the jacket a snap, even with gloves on. I have used the shoulder pocket to hold trail maps. This is a great location with quick and easy access. The under arm vent zippers are always easy to pull down. I have had trouble pulling them back up when not wearing a pack however. The jacket pulls up with the zipper when the jacket is not anchored down. I can still manage to close the zipper but it takes some finesse and can be irritating.
I have held my gloves in the big front pockets on colder days. They are so spacious I don't even notice the bulk of the gloves. The pockets run to the hem of the jacket and this is where the gloves end up. This is comfortable and the gloves are still easy to access. No trouble until its time to buckle a hip belt. The gloves get in the way making the hip belt difficult to buckle. After this happened about half a dozen times I got into the habit of pulling the gloves to the top of the pockets before buckling my hip belt.
Stepping off trail to get around several downed trees has demonstrated the strength of the Cocona fabric. I brushed against several branches which the Kenai just slid through. No snagging, rips or tears felt, heard or seen.
The winter here thus far has been less than mild. There has been only two snow storms to speak of and the ground remains bare. So a few of the Kenai's features have gone unused. I have big hopes for and dreams of the next two months.
I have experienced one mild frustration with the Kenai. The under arm vent zippers can be difficult to pull up. Everything else has been top notch. The performance of the Cocona fabric being the standout feature so far. It is waterproof and breathable, blocks the wind and was unscathed after a good branch lashing.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Day hike at Mt. Tom in Woodstock, Vermont. Hiked 10 mi (16 km) starting at 700 ft (213 m) to 1350 ft (411 km) and back down over ice and thinly snow covered trails. The temperature was 20 F (-6 C) sunny and calm.
X-country skiing at The Pogue pond Woodstock, Vermont. A cold, clear day after a storm that left 8 in (20 cm) of snow. At the start the temperature was 20 F (-6 C) and by the end dropped to 15 F (-9 C).
Terrain gently rolls up and down as it winds the way up the hills surrounding the pond. 10 mi (16 km) over elevations of 1000 - 1600 ft (300 - 480 m) through hard and soft wood forest.
Two hikes at Mt. Peg in Woodstock, Vermont starting at 700 ft (213 m) to 1100 ft (335 m) and back down through dense pine forest.
-Snowshoeing 5 mi (8 km) during light snow fall, temperature was 22 F (-5 C).
-Before sunrise hike 3 mi (5 km) in steady snow fall, temperature 12 F (-11 C).
Snowboarding at Killington, Vermont. Temperature 25 F (-4 C) at 4420 ft (1347 m) with wind gusting around 20 mph (32 kph).
Day hike at Mt. Cardigan 3155 ft (963 m) in Orange, New Hampshire. Hiked 10 mi (16 km) on trails covered with a light dusting of snow on top of hard slab snow, ice, and bare rock. The temperature was 20 F with 35 mph (56 kph) winds at the completely exposed summit.
X-country skiing 8 mi (13 km) of trail with 8 in (20 cm) of fresh snow on Burnt Mountain Trails at Boston Lot Lake, New Hampshire. Elevation ranged from 600 ft (180 m) to 1000 ft (300 m). The temperature was 30 F (-1 C), skies were clear with light winds.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The winter continued to be sub par during Long-Term testing. But temperatures stayed low enough for the few accumulating snowfalls that finally came to stick around. I was able to utilize a few more of the Kenai features with snow in the picture. While not the winter of my dreams it was great to be sliding down the trails again.
I used the D-ring to secure a lift ticket and the snap button leash to secure car keys while snowboarding. The absorbent cloth was excellent for wiping goggles or sunglasses while boarding or X-C skiing. It wipes the lens clean without streaks or scratches. I also like that it's tethered. This makes it easy to find in the pocket and prevents being dropped. These are three nice and well placed features for activities on snow.
I have played around with layering some more during this phase of testing. The best combination was two long sleeve 18.5 Micron Merino wool shirts with two different weights, 150 g/m2 and 230 g/m2 respectively. This worked well snowshoeing and on all hikes, except the 12 F (-11 C) sunrise one. While cold to start, once moving at regular pace it was very comfortable. By opening and closing the front zipper and under arm vents I maintained an even temperature without sweating. The vents open to a nice size allowing good air flow. I still find the under arm vent zippers difficult to close though. I packed an insulating jacket and only needed it when resting and snacking.
While snowboarding it was the same baselayers as above and the insulating jacket. I had no problem fitting the hood over my helmet. But it was not cold or windy enough to make it necessary. While X-C skiing I started out with only the lighter wool shirt and the Kenai. On the day the temperature was 15 F (-9 C) I was comfortable with the Kenai halfway unzipped and the under arm vents open. After climbing the first major hill the Kenai had to come off. It folded up nicely into the hood, approximately football size and easily stowed in a small day pack. On the warmer 30 F (-1 C) day the Kenai was off in about 30 minutes. But was great when resting and prevented me from becoming chilled.
While this winter has been lacking the Kenai has been very impressive. The only thing I can comment negatively on are the pit vent zippers. The problem being the mesh lining often gets snagged in the zipper. All other features were flawless.
I found two features stood out each time I used the Kenai. The large front pockets seem simple but are so useful. They are easy to access with or without a pack on and can hold a ton. The second and definitely most valuable, the Cocona fabric provides excellent regulation of warmth and moisture. I was completely dry while in snow or rain. While hiking I never felt overheated or clammy. Here the underarm vents also play into the level of comfort. The Cocona fabric also provides the Kenai with remarkable ability to block wind. While standing on the fully exposed summit of Mt. Cardigan with a wind chill of 0 F (-18 C) I was well shielded in the Kenai.
At the end of Long-Term testing the Kenai remains in great condition. All materials and workmanship are intact and show no signs of wear.
This concludes my Long-term Report. A big thanks to Obermeyer and BackpackGeatTest.org for the opportunity to test the Kenai Shell.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
Read more gear reviews by Michael Pearl